LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Hudson county renews contract with ICE despite backlash

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

It’s $35 million in the bank for Hudson County. The board of freeholders voted to renew their contract to house ICE detainees in their county jail. Opponents watched in disappointment. They’re some of the same ones who demanded Essex County do as one county deep in the heart of red Texas did, ending its multimillion dollar deal to hold ICE detainees. Eight protesters were arrested blocking the entrance to the Hall of Records two weeks ago.

“My parents told me actions speak louder than words. The Essex County Freeholders have regularly taken resolutions condemning Trump’s attack on immigrants, and yet they collaborate with him with this concentration camp,” said Jay Arena with Resist the Deportation Machine.

Criticism was tweeted quickly by the mayors of Hudson’s two largest cities. Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, urged by activists a year ago to condemn the Hudson-ICE contract, tweeted, “These actions by some Dems of compromising beliefs/morals for $ [money] are a stain on all of us that live in NJ.”

Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla tweeted, “This is disgraceful and does not represent the will and values of the people of Hudson County. Mass incarceration is the problem, not the answer!”

Local counties across the country struck deals to house ICE detainees years ago. But the Trump administration’s policy to separate migrant families at the border put a bull’s-eye on locals who condemn the policy but still partner with ICE.

The Hudson freeholder vote was 5 to 2 to renew, with the chair telling the public at least the Hudson jail would keep detainees close to their families. Others who favored the deal did not respond to requests for comment.

One Hudson County freeholder voted against renewing the ICE the contract because he wanted more time to review it.

“I always think that good governance is more effective when you take your time, you research an issue and work through it. This was not an emergency situation where it had to be approved now,” said Hudson County Freeholder Joel Torres.

Since last year, groups have been urging Essex County to end its jail deal with ICE.

“We’re not going to stop until we’re victorious,” Arena said.

Protesters insist the county executive or the freeholder board can unilaterally break the ICE contract. Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo’s office has not replied to NJTV News’ request for comment.

A spokesperson for Gov. Phil Murphy, who campaigned vowing a more humane immigration approach, says the governor has no authority over county-level decisions. But, the spokesperson did point out that the approved budget has more than $2 million to provide legal assistance to immigrants facing detention or deportation.